The Combine Makes a Difference Come Draft Time - WVU Football, WVU Basketball, News - Mountaineer Sports

The Combine Makes a Difference Come Draft Time

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Michael Ploger -

MORGANTOWN - As the combine comes to a close, some West Virginia Mountaineers have made a name for themselves outside of the college gridiron.

Tavon Austin, Stedman Bailey, and Geno Smith all had their names called upon throughout the weekend, and in good light.  Austin is the talk of the league as he may have boosted his draft stock into the first round.

In the span of four days, Austin might have guaranteed himself millions of more dollars.  The difference in salaries from a top five player, to a player towards the end of the first round is huge.  In 2012, the top three players took home a salary around 21 million dollars.  The bottom three players in the first round will walk away with slightly more than six million.

The difference from David Wilson (32nd pick) to Brian Quick (33rd pick) was nearly 1.5 million dollars.  And the further down the list you go, the lower the salary falls.

All rookies drafted are given four-year deals, but those drafted 1-32 are given a team option for a fifth year.  Under the new CBA drawn out nearly two years ago, rookies are given a high minimum salary, but the ceiling is dropped when it comes to maximum salaries.

In 2013, first year players will make a $480,000 salary, and that number will climb in 2014 when those rookies can expect at least $570,000.

The same goes for players when they play longer in the league.  There is a 25% increase in a player's salary each year he plays in the league.  However, NFL players may not last very long.

In 2011, a study from the Players Association found the average career of an NFL athlete is 3.3 years.  Reasons for departure include injury, retirement, and simply being cut from teams.

That statistic is not true for college players drafted in the first round of the NFL Draft.  A first round pick averages a career length of 9.3 years.  Another reason how these Mountaineers may have made their money's worth this past weekend.

NFL Network expert Mike Mayock has Geno Smith as his top ranked quarterback in the 2013 draft class.  That's above the likes of Matt Barkley and conference foe Landry Jones. Mayock is currently saying Smith should go in the range of picks 20-32.

Tavon Austin shot up draft boards this weekend with his performance in Indianapolis.  With a 4.34 40-yard dash time, and 4.01 second in the 20-yard shuffle, Austin placed second amongst all receivers in both categories.

"You want to talk about one of the most electric players I've ever seen in college football," said Mayock.  "In the NFL, it's all about matchup's.  And this man is a matchup nightmare."

Football analysts and experts have began to believe Austin will be drafted in first round.  There's the possibility he could end up back home, playing for the Baltimore Ravens if they take him with the last pick in the first round.

Stedman Bailey was a top performer in the vertical jump and three cone drill, placing in the top 15 of both categories.  He ran a 4.52 official 40-yard dash time, but what impressed most was his catching ability in drills.  It helps when the man has nearly 10 inch hands.

Bailey's only knock is his lack of typical wide receiver size.  He stands 5'-10" and weighs in at 193 pounds.  As time ticks down to the draft in late April, he'll look to prove doubters that no matter what size he may be, he can be a consistent target in the NFL.

These three will next take the field, in front of national media, come West Virginia's Pro Day.  That comes on March 14, where Joe Madsen will join his teammates one last time to chuck a football around in Morgantown.

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